London’s mayor said the virus was “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city”, as new restrictions ban millions of people in the capital from meeting people from other households indoors.
The move applies for homes as well as venues like pubs and restaurants. Outdoor meetings with up to six people are still allowed.
Londoners were also advised to avoid public transport and, if possible, reduce the number of journeys they make.
“Nobody wants to see more restrictions but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners’ lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers,” Sadiq Khan said.
“I must warn Londoners that we’ve got a difficult winter ahead.”
Several London boroughs have in recent days exceeded the threshold of 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
With the new measures, the capital has moved to the second highest level in England’s three-tier warning system alongside other regions such as York and Essex, Health Minister Matt Hancock told parliament on Thursday.
“We must take firm and balanced decisions to keep this virus under control,” Hancock said.
“Things will get worse before they get better but I know that there are brighter skies and calmer seas ahead,” the minister added.
French health authorities reported that the number of new daily coronavirus infections had jumped above 30,000 for the first time since the start of the epidemic.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the coronavirus is rampant.
There were a total of 30,621 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, up on Wednesday’s 22,591, while hospitalisations and deaths linked to the disease also rose.
The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose by 88 to 33,125, versus 104 on Wednesday.
Patients in Intensive Care Units now total 1750, an increase of 77 in 24 hours.
Italy’s daily statistics on coronavirus infections broke records for the second day in a row, with 8804 cases reported.
The number on Thursday was up from 7332 on Wednesday.
The latest update brought the total number of infections to 381,602 while the overall death toll rose by 83 and reached 36,372, according to the Civil Protection Agency.
The regions that reported the biggest single-day increases in infection figures were Lombardy, with more than 2000 new cases, Campania with about 1100 and Piedmont with more than 1000.
Last week, regional president Vincenzo De Luca said he would order a regional lockdown if daily cases rose above 1000.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte renewed calls on people to follow new virus containment rules which include bans on parties, curfews for bars and restaurants and mandatory mask-wearing even outdoors.
And Poland has announced limits on opening hours for bars and restaurants, sports events and schools in some areas as it faces another daily record spike in infections.
“I am calling on all elderly people to stay home… we will win this fight but only if we are united and responsible,” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
Sports events will be held without audiences, gyms and swimming pools will close, and schools in red zones – where the coronavirus has hit the country hardest – will have to provide only distance learning.
The capital Warsaw will also be in a red zone.
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